One day trip help from Zurich

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3 posts
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May 10, 2017 - 7:52 PM

Hello Switzerland Enthusiasts,

Our group of five will be travelling to Switzerland for a conference. We will be landing about 8:00 AM in Zurich Airport and have the day free until the evening when we have to get to Stein am Rhine for conference. With one day (approx. 12 hours including travel), to see the Alps, we need help and advice for the best trip and how to do it. Amazing views is the goal. (We will be going to the city of Zurich for our last evening in Switzerland).

We'd like to know how these options compare and what is the cheapest way to travel by train for one day travel. Options are

1) Lucerne area. Go to Pillatus, maybe Rigi. Other peaks in the area.

2) Interlaken, Jungfraujoch, etc area.

We will be there in a couple of weeks, any help, guidance, advice is much appreciated!

Thank you!

5547 posts
May 11, 2017 - 9:43 AM in reply to Einstein5

Hi Einstein5 -

Welcome to My Swiss Alps.

I'd suggest Luzern.

Closer, fast train service, closer to Stein at the end of the day. More time to explore.

Spring will be nicely along at that relatively low altitude, so a walk around the old city or a lake boat ride would be pleasant.

I'd suggest the trip by boat from Luzern to Alpnachstad and the cograil to Pilatus Kulm.

If you do it all by train, it is faster than if you include the boat. By train - about 2 /12 hours from the airport to the top of Pilatus, trains from airport at xx18 and xx 47. The xx18 trains require a change at Zürich main station; the xx47 go all the way to Luzern.

You might consider coming back down on the cograil, and catching the boat back to Luzern from Alpnachstad.

The boat schedules are less frequent than the train schedules.

Here is the lake boat schedule. Schedules often change in late May, so make sure that you have the right date. timetable-fares/timetable/

There are different boat routes. Check for the one(s) with Alpnachstad. latus

Pilatus is a much more spectacular mountain than is the Rigi

Please confirm that summer season (meaning the cograil is running) has started by checking the trip schedule in the timetable: metable

As far as I know, there is no cheap way to do a one day train trip....all of the passes cost more than the cost of point to point tickets. Possibly your hotel in Stein might have some sort of regional pass for guests. Arno or Annika can check up on me. I don't know much about various kinds of discounted fares.

The high alpine region- Jungfrau region - is more or less within reach. But about an hour and one half longer each way.

At those altitudes, it is still the tail end of Winter ( although this has been a warm winter, there was a good bit of snow in the mountains just a few days ago). Considering the extra distance, basically, you will ride transport to your destination, look around a bit, and come back.

You can leave your luggage at Zürich airport, or, better, Zürich main station. The airport might be on your route back to Stein; Züri main station definitely will be.

Work the time table if you decide to go to the Jungfrau region.

I think I'd suggest Schilthorn over the Jungfrau. hilthorn

Faster, great views.

On a random day in late May, the trip from Zürich airport to Schilthorn takes 3 hours and 40 minutes +/-10 minutes. Trains leave the airport for a series of connections at xx18, xx40, and xx43

To Jungfraujoch, about 4 hrs and 20-30 minutes.

I'd go up via the series of cableways starting at Stechelberg, but if the bus schedule from Lautterbrunnen to Stechelberg ( frequent) doesn't work for you, then the option of the cableway from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp and small train to Mürren might work well.

The cableways have synchronized timing. Get of one and onto another in 2-3 minutes. Almost no delays.

One last word-

If you have cloudy weather on high, no high mountain trip is very satisfactory. Probably, the one that suffers most from cloudy weather is the Jungfrau, and it is quite expensive.

Check with a tourist office at the airport or at Züri main station.

Also -

www.meteoschweiz.admin .ch/home.html?tab=overview

and outswitzerland/nature

The weather comes in layers. Could be clear in Luzern and cloudy on top of Pilatus, or cloudy in Lauterbrunnen and clear up on the Alps.



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3 posts
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May 11, 2017 - 10:30 PM

Thank you for the very thorough reply!

To follow up, we will be doing the Lucerne area, because like you said it is closer and also beautiful. A couple of specific questions about the itinerary and travel:

1) Is it possible to do both Pilatus and Rigi in one day?

2) Can tickets for all of these excursions be bought day of or should they bought in advance?

3) Here is a link to a schedule of trains up to Pilatus: r-data/274/DEF_PB_Fahrpl an_A4_2017_cmyk-1.pdf We want to do this trip on May 25. Is the cogwheel train we will need open by then?

4) Can we take a train straight from Stein Am Rhine from Lucerne at the end of the day? Does it pay to leave our stuff in Zurich and stop there on the way back? How does one go about leaving luggage either in Zuricch Airport or main station?

5) Is cable car slower or faster than the cogwheel train? One of the people in our group is moderately afraid of heights and might prefer train over cable car, but is open to the option if the itinerary is much smoother that way.

Thank you all so much for all of the help and this wonderful resource - the website is extremely helpful and informative!!

4619 posts
May 11, 2017 - 10:51 PM in reply to Einstein5

Hi Einstein5,

The cogwheel started up a day or so back. You can check here -facilities/

Last modified on May 11, 2017 - 10:53 PM by rockoyster
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May 12, 2017 - 3:20 AM in reply to Einstein5

>> 5) Is cable car slower or faster than the cogwheel train? One of the people in our group is moderately afraid of heights and might prefer train over cable car, but is open to the option if the itinerary is much smoother that way.

Depending on connections, both ways take about the same, or could differ by about 20 minutes (timed from Luzern railway station). Most people go up one way and down the other.

The cogwheel railway is the steepest in the world, and at times has a precipitous drop beneath it.

There has been some previous discussion about going up to Pilatus if you have a fear of heights: rum/topic/fear-of-heights-mt-pilatus-trip rum/topic/train-ride-to-jungfrau

(scroll down to Arno's post of 12 May 2016 1:42 PM)


Last modified on May 12, 2017 - 3:21 AM by Removed user
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new member
May 12, 2017 - 12:49 PM

Thank you for the replies. I read the other forums about the heights issues - let me clarify a couple of points and the options if you don't mind.

I feel that the steepness is not a problem if the train feels enclosed, most of the time has mountain on one side, and I don't need to sit right at the window. Is this possible? Being at a height is not as troubling to me as the the actual traveling up, but I thought inside a train would be less of an issue (planes are no issue).

How long is the train ride or respective cable car? Length might also effect what I can tolerate, but the sitting small cable car with only 4 people seems to frighten me - being suspended is such a small structure. I don't know about the bigger ones where everyone stands.

Also, help with the other unanswered questions above (both peaks in one day, the need to buy tickets in advance, routes involving these peaks and traveling back to Stein am Rhine, luggage drop-off options) still sought and appreciated.

Thank you all so much again for true expert opinion and patience! It makes planning this trip much easier.

10385 posts
expert &
May 12, 2017 - 4:41 PM in reply to Einstein5

Hi Einstein5,

Yes, you can do both Mt. Rigi and Mt. Pilatus in one day but it will be a long day. You can search for schedules and train times here to plan your trips.

You can buy the tickets just before boarding the train (no reservations needed) or look at buying a Swiss Travel Pass that will covers almost all your trips (including Pilatus and Rigi) and no need to buy tickets every time you travel.

Yes, you can take a train between those two destinations - use the timetable link to make your plans. Both Zurich train station and the airport have luggage lockers if you feel the need to use them. you can find details for Zurich train station here as an example - the situation is similar at the airport. station-services/railway-stations/shopville-zuerich-main-station.html

The cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to Pilatus is 32 minutes. The cable car down to Fräkmüntegg is 6 minutes and from there to Kriens is 30 minutes in the gondola (all information is found on the timetable).


5547 posts
May 13, 2017 - 1:12 AM in reply to Einstein5

Hi Einstein-

Lucas gave you some links to help with detailed planning of schedules and routing.

The timetable, which I linked you to, and which would be included in his links, is the tool to answer those kinds of questions

Perhaps you have not worked with it yet?

Here is a link to the schedule from Luzern to Stein on May 25th, on or after 1800 hours: ages/fahrplan/fahrplan .xhtml?suche=true&ab=true&lan guage=en&vias=%5B%22%2 2%5D&webshopPreviewMod e=inactive&von=Luzern& nach=Stein+am+Rhein&vi aField1=&datum=Thu%2C+ 25.05.2017&zeit=08%3A0 0

The timetable offers two trains per hour. The journey takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. In the timetable there is a note "Direction Zuerich main station" or "Direction Zuerich Flughafen." those indicate the direction, not necessarily where you change trains. Every other train (the ones at xx10) continues to the airport after stopping at ZHB ( Zuerich main station), so that, if you want to go to the airport from Luzern, you can use those trains to get there without a change at Zuerich HB (main station)

Click on each route to see the details of where and when you must change trains. The connection time is given at each station.

The instructions in the first page of the link that I gave you explain how to use it: metable

Specifically, in the instructions, it notes that the timetable defaults to the fastest route.

The fastest route to Stein from south of Zuerich is always through Zuerich main station (Hbf) and thence through Schaffhausen.

This map is good to help you with the geography and the routes if you zoom in:,219648&z=2

If you want to force the routing through another station, use the "add via" option where you first enter the names of your starting point and your destination.

As Lucas says, you can do both the Rigi and Pilatus in one day.

Remember, at the end of the day, you have a 2 and 1/4 hour ride from Luzern to Stein.

Including the Rigi -

If you choose to make Rigi Kulm your last target, you can choose to take the cograil train down to Arth-Goldau and connect to the main line to Zuerich main station. That is the fastest route. The last reasonable connection at 1804 takes 3 hours and 21 minutes from the top of Rigi. It gets you to Stein at 2125 if you do not miss the 14 minute connection because you stop to pick up luggage.

If you leave your luggage in the easily accessible lockers at Zueri HB ( require Swiss coins; there is a change making machine which often works) and you know what you are doing, you can easily get your luggage and make a 14 minute connection. If not, you wait for the next train(s)

I have not run a full set of schedules and connections. I do not know what time you arrive at the airport. I do not know if you are coming from a Schengen country ( allows skipping passport control and saves a few minutes).

If you are coming from, for example, the USA, you will likely be contending with the effects of jet lag, meaning that there is a good chance of missing at least one connection on a complex itinerary.

The main line trains are fast and frequent. The local trains stop at many stations ( click on the plus sign in the individual route plan in the timetable which will show intermediate stops.) Excursion trains such as cograils are SLOW.

My advice is to work the timetable very carefully. I would do it one step at a time and write down the whole journey one step at a time, although it is possible to lay out the whole journey in one shot. That stepwise approach saves confusion and allow you to see the next train if you miss one, etc.

Allow time for getting from the plane through the airport to the train. The train station is 2 minutes from the point where you exit the Arrivals Hall. Allow time for meals...available at most stops along the route. Allow time for leaving your luggage. Lockers are most convenient at Zueri HB, but, if they are full and you have to go to the "left luggage" office which adds about 10 minutes total,or you have to get change, it might affect the connection.

The lockers at Luzern HB are way out beside track #1. There are not a lot of them. However, because they are inconvenient, they usually are not full....except on holiday weekends.....and, you have to consider whether you will return through Luzern. You pretty much have to return through Zuerich HB.

Some people allow time for sightseeing at a won't have a lot, but the journeys themselves are scenic.

When you get done, I suspect you will find that doing Pilatus and the

Rigi in one day is possible, but will require precision planning,and precision in making connections.

Personally, if I were doing it, I'd stop at the tourist info office by track #1 in Luzern HB and ask about the weather up top. Pilatus is higher than the Rigi,so that can make a difference. If the weather is good, I'd take the boat to or from Alpnachstad as part of my journey, go only to Pilatus (weather permitting) or the Rigi (2nd choice.) If I chose the Rigi, I'd take the boat (once per hour) from Luzern to Vitznau, then the cograil up to Rigi Kulm. I'd come down on the other train, to Arth-Goldau for the train directly back to Zuerich HB

Luzern itself is a good alternative if the clouds are thick on top of both the mountains.

These three links deserve your attention: cerne latus gi

Those are my personal opinions. Its up to you if you want to fit both the Rigi and Pilatus in one day, but it will require careful planning. I would not do it, but plenty of people have done it easily ....from a base in Luzern. You have 2 or 3 hours "extra" in your day because you start at the airport and finish at Stein.That would likely make for a very rushed day.

And, remember, that you want to spend at least a few minutes walking around Stein. I like to eat in the castle, on a clear day. Climbing up to it gives you an appetite. en-ch/hohenklingen-castle.html


Last modified on May 13, 2017 - 1:28 AM by Slowpoke
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May 13, 2017 - 8:32 AM in reply to Einstein5

>> I feel that the steepness is not a problem if the train feels enclosed, most of the time has mountain on one side, and I don't need to sit right at the window. Is this possible?

More or less. It's not like an ordinary train with a centre aisle and seating either side. It's much smaller - just 4 "seats" wide, no aisle. Seating is a 4-person bench that goes from one side of the car to the other. Each seating compartment has its own door, so the people on each end of the bench are at a door/window, with two people on the bench between them. There are precipitous drops on the left hand side of the train on the way up. I can't remember whether there are also big drops on the right-hand side.

I hope you do manage to go up to Pilatus, and enjoy the trip!


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